31 March 2011

Why I lose arguments...

As a student in a classroom I have no particular standing over other students.  When the topic of LTC Dave Grossman's "On Killing" came up I mentioned that the data did not support the claim that violent video games are increasing violence in our society.  You would have thought that I had managed to sneak into Mecca and proclaim that Mohammed was nothing but a perverted child molester by the reaction I got from my fellow students.

One student in particular is a very Type A personality, who insisted that the violent crime rate has been rising (I showed him the numbers from the FBI's UCR data and he dismissed it as "single source data").  He looked me dead in the eye and said, for the whole class to here, "Well, LIEUTENANT COLONEL Dave Grossman did EXTENSIVE RESEARCH and has CONCLUSIVELY PROVEN his point."  His emphasis, not mine.

All I could do is say that the hypothesis does not fit the data, therefore the hypothesis must be abandoned.  I am not a very persuasive speaker. 

The problem with this particular Lieutenant and many of my fellow Captains is that they do not know how to use their brain to sniff out scientific bullshit.

Rank, accolades, or even a Ph.D does not make you right.  Let us take a look at a few examples shall we?

THE MACHINE GUN WILL NEVER REPLACE THE HORSE AS AN INSTRUMENT OF WAR”. SIR DOUGLAS HAIG, COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCES


Or  Neville Chamberlains's "Peace in Our Time" proclamation?  Or a Chicago Newspaper Editor who decided that Dewey won?

So I don't feel like a smartass for pointing out that Grossman has backed away from statistical data and is now using "anecdotal evidence" to sell his training products at killology.com.  And I don't feel bad at all when I point out that someone's data doesn't back their premise.  I have a much more detailed analysis to follow, but I wanted to vent my frustration that "argument from authority" seems to hold water among those who should know better.

30 March 2011

Sprained Shoulder

A week ago I took a fall badly and sprained my left shoulder.  When I hit the mat I heard "snap-snap" one right after the other, which was most likely my shoulder dislocating and relocating very quickly.  The pain was so intense I almost threw up.  All this motorcycle riding I've been doing to enjoy the nice weather and one bad tumble clips my wing....

I drove myself to the medical clinic where I was seen quickly by a medic who took my vitals and medical history and send me over to x-ray.  Ten minutes waiting in x-ray before my shoulder was irradiated with a few hours worth of exposure to the Fukushima reactor sight.  Then I waited in the waiting area.  It took twenty minutes for a student doing clinical rotation to come examine me.  Then it took an hour and fifteen minutes for the student to get a physician to sign off on a diagnosis of a sprained shoulder and a prescription of painkillers and NSAIDs.

My final instructions (after an hour and 45 minutes sitting in the exam room) were, "Go over to physical therapy to get an appointment."  I went over to Physical Therapy and they said, "We don't make appointments, we only see those in student status during sick call hours."  I wanted to respond, "I've been here since 'sick call hours' and got to this point in my visit just as soon as I could."

So I went home and looked up physical therapy for a shoulder sprain.  I found plenty of rotational exercises to keep things limber and avoid "frozen shoulder syndrome."  But I guess I should go back tomorrow to have a condescending asshole check the shoulder to make sure everything is healing properly. 

29 March 2011

Recession/Depression/Stagflation survival strategies

If hyperinflation doesn't happen, then the next worst that can happen is an economic slump.

Mental skills and character attributes are the key to economic survival.  This is true for ALL survival.  Accept the reality of your situation, abandon your pride in order to make use of ALL available resources, minimize drains on your resources, maximize your intake of resources, accept that it may take a long time to work back to your previous lifestyle.

The first mental step of survival is understanding the reality of your situation.  Minimizing your debt is the first actionable step towards survival.  This means cutting back on spending in EVERY possible area from transportation to food in order to pay off debt.  Once you have paid off your debt (or concurrently), you need to save enough to live on for a while.  Some say six months.  I think six months is a great starting place, and that with the job market the way it has been in the US for the last two years that a years worth of money is quickly becoming the new minimum.

The steps to surviving an economic slump is the same set of steps taken to thrive economically in the good times.  It isn't rocket surgery, it is discipline.

If you do lose your job, use whatever benefits you have such as a severance or unemployment while you look for a new job.  A new job that pays less than unemployment is better than staying on unemployment.  Even a job with a small salary can be used as a stepping stone to something better, and unemployment benefits run out.  The first thing you have to abandon for survival is pride (pride is like a debt you can't pay off, but it is one you can leave behind).  Remember that coming out the other side intact is a worthy goal, and the skills you master to get rid of debt and live within your income will help insure long term prosperity.  If your new job will only add 8 or 9 months between you and homelessness that is still 8 or 9 months worth of options (such as selling your house before it becomes a foreclosure).

And if you are in debt up to your eyeballs, can't find any work, and have no unemployment?  Well life sucks to be you (probably shouldn't have slacked through four years for that PoliSci degree), but bankruptcy is there because people do sometimes find themselves with no other options.  But if your debt is student loans bankruptcy won't help you, the FedGov wrote the rules so that the court system cannot touch that debt. When you take the King's Coin you dance to the King's tune....

And even if you DO lose it all, as long as you are alive there is hope.  Optimism can be a powerful tool if you take a realistic look at where you are, what your skill set is, and if you can use those assets to build yourself a better tomorrow.  But you may have to abandon the lifestyle you once had, and it is ok to do so. Survival isn't pretty, anyone who thinks differently has led a very privileged life.

28 March 2011

How long to plan?

The "Return to Normal" time following any disaster/crisis is tough to predict.  Thank goodness for history.

Looking only at these examples of hyperinflation, there are two obvious answers.  Two to three years, or as long as the idiot stays in charge (Argentina and Zimbabwe being the prime example).

Not listed in that article is Mexico, and its whopping 150% inflation in 1987.  Now this is every bit as dangerous to savers as it is to spenders.  If your life savings are in a bank earning 4% interest while the inflation is at 150% interest, you will lose 75% of the VALUE of your nest egg over the course of a year.  Yes the amount of money in the bank will still go up, but it will only buy a quarter of what it used to due to rising costs.  What happened in Mexico was hyperinflation, however this isn't shown by the numbers here because of the transition from the peso to the new peso in 1982.  If you adjust solely against a 1970 peso the Mexican inflation crisis was hyperinflation.

Moderate inflation is something that politicians like.  After all inflation is the only tax that doesn't have to be approved by Congress (by making things cost more people have to spend more and therefore more taxes are gathered).

So, if you are worried about hyperinflation, either things will be better in about two years, or things will last a lot longer (Mexico, Zimbabwe, Argentina).  Since it is impossible to plan on an infinite period of crisis/disaster, it makes a lot of sense to plan for a two year currency crisis.

I am not a fan of George Soros, but my opinion does not change the fact that the man knows how to work markets to profit himself.  So when the man who brought down the Bank of England predicts that things will get worse, I listen. 
“I think the dollar is now under question and I think the system will need to be reformed, so that the United States will be subject to the same discipline as is imposed on other countries,” said Soros, whose famous bet against the British pound earned his Quantum Fund $1 billion in 1992. “Being the main issuer of international currency, we have been exempt and we have abused that because we have effectively consumed 6.5 percent more than we have produced. That is now coming to an end.”

Of course Soros is predicting that it won't just be an isolated country here and there with financial problems, but the whole ball of wax melting down.  And like I wrote before, I am not a fan of Soros.  I think the man is both vile and evil, and unfortunately I think he is likely right.

27 March 2011

The war fighting functions

FM 3-0 lists six War Fighting Functions.

Movement & Maneuver
Command and Control
Sustainment
Protection
Intelligence
Fires

Each "War Fighting Function" is a measure of how robust a particular combatant is in a particular area.  When you combine the War Fighting Functions with "Leadership and Information" they become the "Elements of Combat Power."

Let us take a look at the Taliban and conduct a "hasty relative combat power analysis."  They have minimal movement and maneuver, minimal command and control above the platoon level, minimal sustainment assets, minimal protection assets, extensive Intelligence support, and a few rockets and mortar tubes for indirect fires.  They don't have a lot, but they use what they have to stay in the fight.

On the flip side, when you examine the other sides War Fighting Functions you can identify weakness that can be exploited.  If the enemy has a really good "Movement and Maneuver" asset like a motorized brigade, but a weak "Sustainment" support network, simply by blowing up a few dozen fueling trucks you can greatly reduce the "Movement and Maneuver" advantage.

However the enemy is doing the same to you.  If you are the underdog you will not have an advantage in any of the War Fighting Functions.  Any "American Insurgents" need to take note.  However, there are ways to stay in the fight when you are the underdog. 

Having a cell structure means that the enemy has a hard time attacking your Command and Control assets.
Living with the locals and maintaining support from the population means that the .gov would have to target civilians to cut off your supply line.
If all your movement and maneuver is through civil means, the .gov must crack down on everyone to crack down on you.  (I think that is why the TSA is so heavy handed, to get people used to being treated as war criminals or terrorist suspects.)
If you don't have a large base to protect your forces at night the .gov can't attack what isn't there.  (hence the need for anonymity, once big bro knows where you are the game is over.)
If you don't have mortars or artillery it only means you have to resort to IEDs or heavy direct fire attacks (rpg or rocket).
And intelligence, this is the only thing keeping the Taliban in the fight.  Their ability to recruit fresh meat.  Intelligence isn't just about gathering information on the enemy, it encompasses all intelligence operations.  Including recruitment.

Don't get me wrong, the Taliban gets its ass handed to it on a daily basis.  The VC got severely spanked in Vietnam.  But the propaganda would tell you that the Taliban are filled with spartan mujahadeen fighters who live solely to fight and die for Allah.  It isn't the case.  Your average Taliban fighter is a near sighted, underfed, brainwashed guy who thinks of going on Jihad as a temporary thing to gain some street cred.

We could do the same for the American Revolutionary War and see how the American weaknesses in Sustainment were made up by Movement and Maneuver (Washington lost more battles than he won, but he stayed in the fight), how Washington used Intelligence to augment his Maneuver assets (both tactically and strategically), and how Command and Control worked to unify lines of effort across the Eastern Seaboard.

But the Six War Fighting Functions don't tell you who will win.  They only tell you who is more robust at a particular area of war.  Every war has always had a difference in forces.  Someone always has more than the other guy.  A smart guy looks for how he can undermine the enemy War Fighting Functions.  Feed them false intelligence?  Deny them mobility with road spikes?  Use an EMP bomb to degrade their C2 assets?

You can analyze War Fighting Functions all the way down to the individual if you wanted to, but it is most useful when looking at a group that will be fighting together for a while, and comparing them to their known foe for an operation.

Reunions

My wife made it down to Georgia on Friday, and introduced me to my youngest son.  M will be 3 months old the first week of April, and so it was an adjustment for both of us.

My eldest son has been acting a little out of sorts.  A six day drive across country with Mom to see a man who has spent almost as much time away as he has home has left him a little confused.  But he is coming around nicely, although he will panic if Mom leaves the room without him.

If I had this to do over I might rethink my career choice.  Quantity time is quality time for children, and there has been precious little of that lately.

Questions....

If environmentalists truly care about diversity why don't they lobby for the re-introduction of malaria into the expanses of North America?

Why aren't those who oppose nuclear power lobbying for the removal of "backscatter" nudie pic machines in use by the TSA?

I guess consistency really is the hobgoblin of small minds...  Of course having a mind so free that anything can reside in it has a unique set of problems as well.

25 March 2011

The Jubilee Reboot

Scholars debate whether the year of Jubilee is year 49 or 50, but the concept of a "reboot" is part of it.

Slaves become free, land returns to the original owner or heir.  Debts are forgiven.

Our economy does not have the concept of a "jubilee year", but when it is needed it often happens.  The forgiveness of debt on the international market, and the coinage of a new currency to replace the old.

Unfortunately it takes a catastrophic crash to get there.  East German Deutschmarks and Confederate Dollars are still worthless.  Zimbabwe continually produces toilet paper money.  Pesos from the 1970s and earlier have been devalued several hundred times over.  Money changes form, but commodities don't.

24 March 2011

Uncertainty

The future is uncertain.  I had a nice long chat with my parents, who are quite well prepared for an economic collapse, about money.

My Father and I discussed paying off bills verses having cash on hand.  I wish I had a crystal ball so that I could tell people what will happen, but I don't.  I do know that the historical signs point out what MIGHT happen and what will likely happen, but nothing more certain than that.

So what is likely?  Well the dollar will likely continue to slip in value and it is likely to be replaced as the reserve currency of the world, just like the British Pound before it.  What will replace it?  Twenty years ago I would have said the Yen, but now it looks more likely like the Chinese Yuan.  Could be the Swiss Franc for all I know.

The other big question is, WHEN will something like this happen?  And the answer is this, I don't know.  And there is the flip side, things eventually return to normal.  So I don't believe that things will get so bad in the next two years that people hoard cash in the bank, I think that "stagflation" is more likely.  Back in May of 2008 I predicted that if Obama was elected it would be the Carter years all over again http://randomthoughtsandguns.blogspot.com/2008/05/memorial-day.html and so far I've been right.

Sure wish that he'd been able to deliver on the rainbow farting unicorns instead.  But, Carter didn't destroy this country and life did return to "normal."

23 March 2011

Refrigerator Curry

Had some stew beef, carrots, onion, and tomatoes hanging around the refrigerator.

Curry seemed like the obvious answer, although chili was a tempting second.  But the real difference between chili and curry is only in the spices...

Not every soldier picks up "world cuisine" as part of their life, but plenty do.  One of these days I'm going to have to take a crack at Thai style curries.

22 March 2011

Combatives Level Two

The US Army let the Rangers take the lead and form Modern Army Combatives Program, or MACP.  I should lay out my background, having taken lessons in Tae Kwon Do (ITF), Kempo Karate, and Tomiki Aikido (non-competitive).  Never made black belt in any system, but I've been in a few fights and lost teeth because of it (my poor parents dental bills).

But on to MACP.  There are 4 levels.  I've been through Level 1 about three times now.  Not bad training for something designed to take someone who has never boxed, wrestled, or been in a fight and teach them to squirm around on the ground to achieve a bar or a choke.  But after the first time through Level 1 is pretty boring.  Lots of ground work, lots of repetition, not a lot of fun.  A lot of emphasis on Gracie Jiu Jitsu style grappling.  Level one would equal 40 "mat hours" for someone keeping track for a martial art that tracks mat hours.

Level 2 started off with a Level 1 review.  Then all the things to counter Level 1.  It took a while to move into striking, but at least now we are covering truly new material for most of us.  The kicks are from Muai Thai, the punches are from Boxing.  Level 2 would be 80 "mat hours."

Levels 3 and 4 are Instructor levels, Level 3 can certify Level 1, and Level 4 can certify Level 1 and 2.  This is to set up units for self sustaining training.   Both Level 3 and 4 are 160 hours of training each.  So to go from Level 1 to level 4 it is a minimum of 480 hours of training. 

In the end, we are back where we started two thousand years ago in the Gladiator Arena of Rome, total fighting (Pan = total, kratos = fighting.  Put them together and you have pankration) .  Too bad we lost so much of our western history and had to borrow so much Jiu Jitsu to get there.

Of course the Asian cultures wrote down and codified schools of martial arts almost compulsively, whereas our records of "Pankration" are from pottery and statues.  Still, as a fighting style MACP works, as a functional martial art it lacks art.  But then again neither gladiators nor soldiers have any need to be graceful, artistic, or even at peace with themselves.

The good?  Well you get hit in MACP.  This is something that a lot of schools don't do.  Learning a martial art is not learning how to fight.  The Bad, it takes a while to go from learning moves to learning how to fight.  Really it has only been this second half of Level 2 where people are starting to move like fighters instead of boxers or wrestlers.

21 March 2011

Two types of bikers

Those that have gone down, and those that will go down.

Yesterday I switched categories.

Gravel sucks.

20 March 2011

Pushing dialogue forward...

The critics of Nuclear Power who are using the Fukushima Daichi incident to further their anti-nuclear fears have failed to provide a more persuasive argument than "ZOMG we knew this would happen!eleven!!"

On the flip side here are some things to think about.

Six individual 50 year old reactor designs withstood an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami waves over 15 meters long enough for crews to find ways to cool the reactor core and spent fuel rod pools.  Remember time is your friend in a nuclear incident.

If we compare this to 3 Mile Island the worst outcome will be that reactors become unusable as the fuel rods melt down into Corium and render the reactor useless.  This is not a huge issue, 3 Mile Island has had the other reactor working just fine along the non-working reactor for decades now.

And finally, this is a 50 year old design.  More "modern" nuclear reactors have "passive" safety measures built into the design that effectively take human decision making out of the loop (a proximate cause of 3 Mile Island).  Passive safety is like air brakes on a big rig, without enough air pressure the brakes engage and everything comes to a stop.  If the pressure spikes in a modern Boiling Water Reactor the spike will cause an event cascade ending in a shutdown.

So why haven't we built more nukes except for the Navy?  Fear.

Fear is a limiting factor in any endeavor.  A few modern Boiling Water Reactors would do more for California's infrastructure problems than another wind farm killing off all the pretty birds.

LIfe is pain, anyone who says differently is selling something

Or more accurately, life is struggle.

Don't get hung up on winning.  Win or lose the fight will go on. 

Stay in the fight.  If you aren't fighting you have are already lost by forfeit.

Remember George Washington had very few victories in the Revolutionary War, but he stayed in the game long enough to win.  The pro-rights camp was on the ropes for years until Heller and McDonald, and the anti-freedom camp is doing their best to dance in the blood of the dead to force the zombies in Congress to do their voodoo slave work for them.

Joan Peterson isn't resting.  Sure she may be illogical and unbalanced but she isn't resting in her crusade to see us all in chains.

19 March 2011

UNeffective...

Questions.

Does the UN have any legitimate authority to make rulings on matters internal to a sovereign state?  I do not believe so.

If the UN does have legitimate authority to make rulings on matters internal to a sovereign state, what defines the limits of authority?  If authority and responsibility are not clearly defined then they are just "making stuff up" as they go along.

If the UN uses some legitimate authority to make a ruling on matters internal to a sovereign state obviously the only means of coercion is military power.  And since the UN doesn't have an Army or Air Force, maybe Russia will supply the firepower?

What if everyone votes and no one sends fighters?  And ends up looking at President Obama with anime eyes saying "Reagan would have sent fighters" under their breath?

What if the UN just stuck to the concept of handling disputes between nations and leaving sovereign states alone?  Nah...busybodies gots to be busybodies.

As much as I don't like Libya, I see no difference with Rwanda or Zimbabwe.  I mean, if the UN couldn't even ensure that Mugabe's sham elections were monitored why should I care what the "Security Council" says?  If they specifically avoided using the word "Genocide" so no one would call for a security presence, then any sort of "morality" argument is LONG gone.

Seriously, bad shit happens all over the world.  Getting involved in a conflict in Africa is just bad policy for everyone.  If we want real change in Libya then we should make like the Communists and send guns to those who oppose the recognized government.  I'm sure the CIA and MI6 have been building networks for decades now just for an opportunity like this.

When we had our Revolution, the French helped out with a bunch of guns (and later some troops, but only because they hate the Brits).  We can help out with guns.  Or nukes.  I'm ok with either choice.

You know the UN Security Council could pass a resolution proclaiming puppies are cute and I would still think they are full of crap.  Then again, maybe the Security Council is interested in Libya because they have more oil than Japan.

Advice

When I was a child my father told me that "a wise man never plays a man at his own game" and that has turned out to be a very good rule.  The martial arts a part sport, part discipline, and all focused on "winning" a fight.  Remember that old quote that "professionals are predictable, amateurs are dangerous?"

I've been in a few fights in my life, and the key to not losing big is aggression.  I didn't say you'll win, but the person who fights the hardest the quickest will generally walk away.  More often than not a fight will stop before the other guy can't walk away.

Getting into a fight means that you are going to get hurt.  It is better to avoid a fight simply by not being there if you can.  But if you can't, then you need to fight with everything you have or you are going to get the snot kicked out of you.

In the end having a black belt isn't going to get you out of the fight on your feet, nor is having a gun that you are unwilling to use, nor is trying to play nice and not hurt the other guy.  You need to be violent enough quickly enough that you don't lose more than you already have.  This is something I learned the hard way, and when you get that watery feeling in your stomach it is your body telling you "fight or flee" and you had better choose quickly.

18 March 2011

Recharge

I'm a bit of a loner by nature.  Not that I don't enjoy the company of others, I do, just that when it is time for me to relax and recharge I find some place to be alone, or at least as alone as I can get.  Sometimes that is escaping into a book or just finding someplace where other people are doing the same thing, escaping into their heads and not talking to each other.

When class ended today I came home and watched a few cartoons (you are never too old for cartoons or legos) then hopped on the bike to get some Vietnamese food.  After enjoying some very yummy lemongrass chicken I decided to take a road that I had never taken before just to find out where it went.

I found a bar in the middle of nowhere that was packed to overflowing at 1830.  I found a gas station that sold alcohol free gas (I topped off the tank with midgrade).  I saw lots of purple blossoms on trees lining the roadway, smelled the clean scent of spring, and the scent of dirt when my bike thundered across the bridges connecting stream banks.

Riding a motorcycle is just a more active form of meditation.  You keep your eyes open and let the bike say "Ohhmmm."

17 March 2011

A little ray of sunshine in the doom and gloom...

Revolutions in Egypt and Libya, earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Food prices soaring. Oil prices soaring.  Radiation leaking, causing the usual crowded of nitwits to get their panties bunched up.

But tomorrow is Friday.  My little ray of sunshine for a rather dreary week.

16 March 2011

Japan....

A Japanese physician will likely feel no guilt at not telling a cancer patient that there are no more options but to enjoy the time remaining so that the patient can in fact enjoy the time remaining.  It isn't wrong, just that Japanese medicine operates on a slightly different set of principles than the "Hypocritical Oath" familiar to occidental medicine.  Yes I know it isn't a hypocritical oath, just one that is completely outdated to the practice of things we take for granted like chemotherapy or plastic surgery. 

So when the official Japanese version of events surrounding the spent fuel rod cooling systems is much more benign than the alarmist rhetoric coming out of the US mouthpiece, I have to stop and reflect.  Is it Japanese officials trying to calm people so they don't waste the time they have left, or is it another .gov agency mouthpiece overreacting during his moment of relevance?

First off this is nowhere as bad as Chernobyl (by several orders of magnitude), at least not yet nor likely to become so although it is worse than Three Mile Island.  However time is your friend in some respects (remember how long it took for Three Mile Island to return to normal).  The longer you go without a catastrophic event the more likely a return to normal will happen.  Chernobyl was catastrophic very quickly.

So I remain optimistic.  Based solely on the radiation exposure numbers released I believe that things will turn out fine.  The Japanese people have a historically strong sense of duty and honor, doing what must be done because it is the right thing to do.  So this disaster is like Katrina and Three Mile Island rolled into one, but I have faith that the Japanese people will come through this disaster with the same rugged resolve shown after the last major nuclear incidents in Japan.

Emperor Hirohito said these words, "Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion that may engender needless complications, of any fraternal contention and strife that may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.
Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith of the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it.  Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future...."

I cannot say that I have the same confidence in my fellow Americans, a precious few are prepared, but far too many have come to rely on the state and lose their heads when the world is shaken and turned upside down.

14 March 2011

Public Sector Unions

As a soldier I have a very special take on public sector unions.

Once the War for Independence was won Congress had a problem, they couldn't pay the Army a few years of back pay.  So they simply put the whole Army on furlough save 40 Artillerymen and never called the rest back.  In the Great Depression when WWI vets were attacked by their active duty comrades in the "Bonus March Riots."

My paycheck comes from the taxpayers (although more likely from China).  If the public doesn't pay me then I don't have a job working for the public.  I could not be like the Revolutionary War soldier who could go two years without pay, my family would starve while I was playing soldier.  So if the time comes when a Reduction In Force (RIF) sends me packing then so be it, I'll find some job somewhere.  I've been a janitor and know that I can at least fall back on that.

Soldiers don't have collective bargaining rights, nor should we.  But neither should Police, Firefighters, or EMTs.  In the end the only people who put anything into the economy are farmers and miners.  Everyone else simply adds value to base products.  I know my place in the economic scale of things and have no right to demand more than is in my contract that I signed with my own hand of my own free will.

Tagged

DirtCrashr at Anthroblogogy tagged me with a "stylish" something or other.  Since my blog is more often than not solely text I hope that it reflects a spartan elegance of thought instead of a desperate attempt to pass on the award to ten others...

The rules are that the recipient must tell 7 things that most people don't know, and then tag 10 more bloggers.  I find it refreshing to break the rules on occasion so I will skip the tagging others part.

But on to the 7 obscure facts about me.

1. I am left handed but wear my wristwatch on my left wrist.
2. I can assemble a computer, administer a network,  yet I still ask for my wife's help with MSOffice.
3. I consistently score "mild to medium autistic" on tests for personality disorders.
4. I have a "sacro-lumbar transitional vertebrae" that didn't fuse, meaning I have one extra in my lower back compared to the standard model of physiology.
5. Japanese anime is one of my guilty pleasures. 
6. Three things I want to build with my own hands before I die: a diesel powered motorcycle, an aircraft capable of supporting two adults, and a solar powered boat.
7. I am a recoil wuss and think that bruises on shoulders are a sign of stupidity not masculinity.

13 March 2011

Profession of Arms

When I was a civilian I wanted to be a soldier because soldiers are brave, strong, and honorable.  Then I became a soldier and wanted to be a Ranger because they were the best, highly trained elite warriors who could be given any task.  Then I did it.  And in the end I am still just me.  Any honor, bravery, or strength is what I brought with me along the way.  My dreams have gotten darker over the years, but now instead of dieing because my equipment fails my nightmares consist of helplessly watching men die because I gave bad orders. 
Somewhere along the way I found that I envied the pilots with their bigger view of the battlefield, and I envied my Joe's for their simple responsibilities to execute by pulling triggers and kicking doors.  Infantry officers have to share the danger with their men to be effective leaders, but also have to coordinate units and assets to win the fight. 

Last week I was ordered to read a white paper on the Profession of Arms.  Somehow the idea that doing this job just for a paycheck is wrong.  I don't agree with that.  You have to start somewhere, and doing this job just for a job is fine by me.  Just because you love your job doesn't make it any sort of higher calling, a "profession."  I wished that I could point out the little detail that "the difference between professional and amateur is a paycheck."

I guess the white paper was some reaction by the Brass to combat some trend they see in subordinates like me, but on a broad enough scale to be concerning.  Possibly that is a bit of arrogance on my part, assigning motivation to the actions of others.  But when I talk to soldiers they calculate the cost of a deployment in terms of the money that it will bring home to their families, and a rather mercenary attitude does seem to be more common than ever.  I am fine with that.  A nation needs a professional Army of some sort, and a group of loyal mercenaries are every bit as valid a solution to fill that need as a force of die hard idealists.

Along the line I got what I thought I wanted, and even if I no longer see the "Profession of Arms" in quite the ideal terms of my boss.  I do agree that the role we serve is both right and necessary.  There is no further justification needed beyond either right or necessary.  You don't have to be the bravest and brightest to do what is right and necessary, just willing.  But I am not willing to risk my life abroad for no compensation, and I doubt you would be able to sell anyone on the idea of a foreign war of offense without compensation.

But don't get me wrong.  I have chosen the life I have and seldom have regrets. 

I think it was in John Steakley's novel "Armor" that this phrase was written.

Death is lighter than a feather.
Duty heavier than a mountain.

12 March 2011

How Long?

When a conflict starts everyone hopes for a "short, victorious war" and a clean ending.

History is filled with precious few examples of short, victorious wars.  Civil wars, revolutions, and insurgencies are long and bloody things.

So how long can you plan to fight?  How bad will you let it get before one side decides to give in?

The big question on my mind is logistics.  If you can't live off your enemy then life gets very very hard for the underdog. 

Myth vs. Reality: Death statistics from Vietnam


"The Vietnam War saw the highest proportion of blacks ever to serve in an American war. During the height of the U.S. involvement, 1965-69, blacks, who formed 11 percent of the American population, made up 12.6 percent of the soldiers in Vietnam. The majority of these were in the infantry, and although authorities differ on the figures, the percentage of black combat fatalities in that period was a staggering 14.9 percent. from The Oxford Companion to American Military History. Copyright © 1999 by Oxford UP."

From the 1969 Supreme Court Case Sellers v. Laird this little nugget of statistical falsehood has been recorded for posterity. " The Negroes are '10% of the U. S. population, yet 30% of the casualties in Vietnam are Negroes.' They are 'the front line foot soldiers.' He feels that the country 'will not give the Negroes any room.' He states that the Vietnamese are basically colored people and the Negro soldiers have no business there fighting other colored people.'"

Even Dr. King was attributed with the quote "Vietnam is a white man's war and a black man's fight."

One of the persistent myths I've heard about Vietnam was that it was "drafted Black soldiers" who took the brunt of casualties.  One of the good things that the Leviathon Army is good at is keeping records.

Number of "Negro" deaths 7,264
Number of "Caucasian" deaths 50,120

If the Oxford Companion to Military History is correct then 7,264/50,120 = 14.6% but as any idiot with a calculator can show you the correct answer is 12.5%.  If African Americans did serve as 12.6% of the force then a casualty rate of 12.5% of the force shows no bias against African Americans in terms of morality risk over the entire course of the war.  Just for clarity, according to the reference I could find, only 8 women GIs died in Vietnam.  It is true that the yearly statistics jumped up and down, at one time I believe African Americans made 20% 16.3% of the yearly casualties, but statistical anomalies happen, and over the course of time trends return to the mean.


Total number of deaths in Vietnam for "Selected Service" (draftees), 17,672.  17,672/58,193 = 30% of casualties.  That means 70% of casualties in Vietnam volunteered for the Armed Services.

The numbers show that Vietnam was largely a volunteer Army of young white men based on who passed on during the conflict.  I'm sorry if this isn't in line with the accepted norms of our culture, and I don't wish to diminish the contributions of either African Americans or those drafted into service, after all we could not have fulfilled our treaty obligations in Europe without draftees.

I think that the enduring myth of "white man's war, black man's fight" came about because of the propaganda war back home.  And because that sound bite (patently false) fit the narrative of certain leftists it has been passed on as truth even into textbooks.  So if you are a part of the conservative propaganda corps, keep typing.  Telling the truth is a powerful tool of dissent in this world.

Demographically it is true that those who served often came from poorer neighborhoods or rural farming communities.  That remains true to this day even with an All Volunteer force.  Remember the kerfluffle back in 2004 when the Stop Loss policy (which has been on the books since before Vietnam) was called a "backdoor draft" by Sen Kerry?  The leftists hate the military, hate the people who choose to serve (cause we are so dumb that we get stuck in the Army in a war zone), and hate that we aren't some poster organization for UN ineffectiveness and multi-culti tolerance. Fuck 'em.

Heck do Google for "Soldiers are not heroes" and "Soldiers are scary" and you'll find some nice links to democraticunderground.com and the dailykos.com.  They hate us, and they hate those that understand us.  They hate the personification of government sanctioned violence that we are.  As a group they hate us, and as an individual they hate all warriors.  You have heard it all before, people with guns have penis issues, martial artists are wimps looking for a fight, etc.  It is nothing more than propaganda in the culture war, just like Vietnam being a "white man's war, black man's fight."

All numbers from http://www.militaryfactory.com/vietnam/casualties.asp

If you served in Vietnam, volunteer or draftee, thank you.  The warrior tradition that you have passed on to me will not be extinguished on my watch and I swear to pass it on to the next generation to the best of my abilities.

11 March 2011

Compare and Contrast

Ah, eleven years ago in the "Peace Dividend" the Military was "too white and too male."

Now, after a decade of combat the Military is "too white and too male."

And my favority Congressman, Rep Allen West has this to say:
“Everyone that comes into the military has an equal opportunity to get promoted to the next level. It is not about outside entities trying to engineer and design results and outcomes or create a sense of equal achievement and when some military diversity group writes a report saying there are too many white men on top,” West said. “It is kind of a slap in the face to those who have risen through the ranks such as four star General [Lloyd] Austin, [General] Kip Ward, many others. We don’t need these outside entities trying to design or shape a military.”
West continued by noting that many confuse privileges with rights. To West, it is a privilege to serve in the military. He also said it is not an institution with which outsiders should tinker, especially while engaged in conflicts abroad.

I have wondered why minorities disproportionately enlist into support occupations, and I asked a black officer who told me straight up, "Old people in the Black Community tell young black men not to join the Infantry because you will be sent to the front lines as cannon fodder."  I have to take his word on it because my lily white ass doesn't count as any sort of minority.

And people enlist for very different reasons.  When I enlisted I wanted to work with technology, so I ended up in the Signal Corps working MSE switches.  After a few years when I figured some things out about the Army it became clear that even though life sucked more in the combat arms the camaraderie is the best.  So I requested Infantry as my branch choice when I commissioned and I was lucky enough to be accepted.

And white men enlist into the Infantry for various reasons, but it always boils down to the base 4.

Remember, the leftists hated the draft because it wasn't fair to minorities or some sort of nonsense (I think they just hated the draft because the concept of civic responsibility is foreign to most leftists).  Now they hate the ALL VOLUNTEER force because it isn't as diverse as the country as a whole.

Newsflash idiots, NOWHERE IN THIS COUNTRY REPRESENTS THE COUNTRY AS A WHOLE.  Chicago does NOT look like Seattle or Houston.  The idea that people will homogenize immediately into the melting pot is proven false by reality.  Change takes time.  Of course some people just can't accept that when enough individuals make individual choices larger trends may sometimes appear.

According to NPR the Military is MORE DIVERSE and BETTER EDUCATED than EVER.

The most highly decorated combat Regiment of WWI was the Black 369th Regiment.
The most highly decorated unit from WWII was the 442nd Regimental Combat Team "Go For Broke!" composed of Asian Americans.  Warriors come in all colors.  I think this poem is appropriate. 

Yanks
by James Foley

O'Leary, from Chicago, and a first-class fightin' man,
For his father was from Kerry, where the gentle art began:
Sergeant Dennis P. O'Leary, from somewhere on Archie Road,
Dodgin' shells and smellin' powder while the battle ebbed and flowed.

And the captain says: "O'Leary, from your fightin' company
Pick a dozen fightin' Yankees and come skirmishin' with me;
Pick a dozen fightin' devils, and I know it's you who can."
And O'Leary, he saluted like a first-class fightin' man.

O'Leary's eye was piercin' and O'Leary's voice was clear:
"Dimitri Georgoupoulos!" And Dimitri answered "Here!"
Then "Vladimir Slaminsky! Step three paces to the front,
For we're wantin' you to join us in a little Heinie hunt!"

"Garibaldi Ravioli!" Garibaldi was to share;
And "Ole Axel Kettleson!" and "Thomas Scalp-the-Bear!"
Who was Choctaw by inheritance, bred in the blood and bones,
But set down in army records by the name of Thomas Jones.

"Van Winkle Schuyler Stuyvesant!" Van Winkle was a bud
From the ancient tree of Stuyvesant and had it in his blood;
"Don Miguel de Colombo!" Don Miguel's next of kin
Were across the Rio Grande when Don Miguel went in.

"Ulysses Grant O'Sheridan!" Ulysses' sire, you see,
Had been at Appomattox near the famous apple-tree;
And "Patrick Michael Casey!" Patrick Michael, you can tell,
Was a fightin' man by nature with three fightin' names as well.

"Joe Wheeler Lee!" And Joseph had a pair of fightin' eyes;
And his granddad was a Johnny, as perhaps you might surmise;
Then "Robert Bruce MacPherson!" And the Yankee squad was done
With "Isaac Abie Cohen!" once a lightweight champion.

Then O'Leary paced 'em forward and, says he: "You Yanks, fall in!"
And he marched 'em to the captain. "Let the skirmishin' begin."
Says he, "The Yanks are comin', and you beat 'em if you can!"
And saluted like a soldier and first-class fightin' man!

Cool or professional?

I happened to stumble across this post, wonderfully titled TACTICAL COMMENTARY: You Are Not a Navy SEAL Sneaking up on Someone, so When You Say “Velcro is Too Loud” You Sound Like an Idiot

So I ask, what do you need for a 4 day operation scouting for the Taliban on the Afghan/Pakistan or Iran/Iraq border?  If you didn't have "water" as your number one answer you might want to start thinking about what you really need.

I admit that I am kind of a geardo, I like playing with things that are all new and shiny.  But after I humped a 16oz Swamp Rat Knife Works "Mischief Six" around for a while I swapped it out for the much lighter Benchmade Nimravus (by dropping brand and model names I have firmly established my geardo street creds).  When you really need a knife a fix blade is awesome, but at the end of a long mission everything seems a metric ton heavier.  Some of my veteran squad leaders only carried a multi-tool and others carried a fixed blade as well. 

But all that tacticool stuff that seems like it would be just the ticket under the bright lights of the PX usually gets worn for a little bit, and then the guys who go outside the wire strip it down to necessities.  Water, batteries, food, ammo.  And then all the crap you have to carry like body armor and extra stuff for the rest of the team. I will admit I always carried my compass, even when we only had digital maps of areas in Iraq where we were operating. 

It is funny, but in the movie "Platoon" one scene that sticks out is when the FNG reports to the squad leader that he is ready for patrol and the squad leader starts pulling off all the crap he doesn't need on the load bearing equipment.  Flashlight, spoon, can opener, etc.

Although I guess if the FOB ever did get overrun the guy with a gajillion ready mags would be pretty popular.  And as far as SEALs go?  I used to think more highly of them before the reality rubbed off the reputation.  Reading the stories of SEAL ops in Vietnam and how the SEALs would snicker when they went into an AO and conducted an op without telling the land owning unit seemed really cool when I was 15.  I mean how cool is that?  Conducting independent small unit operations?  Seems like real warrior shit or something.

Then I grew up and got some experience.  Seals are aggressive blunt instruments.  Sure they can sneak around and kill people but they absolutely suck at working with a larger team.  Imagine an Iraqi sitting outside an Iraqi Police station and talking on a cell phone, sounds suspicious right?  So the SEALs shoot him with a sniper rifle from 700 meters away.  Cool long distance assistance right?  Until you find out it was the Police Chief's brother who was waiting to give the Chief a ride home from work.

Now the land owning unit has to explain how some cowboy SEAL sniper killed one of the good guys and potentially made an entire tribe unfriendly to the US.  Not so cool.

SEALs are a small community, and word gets around when anyone in the organization screws up, and it brings down everyone.  For a while 160th refused to fly SEALs around A'stan because they couldn't figure out how to get out of a helicopter without cutting through the seatbelts.  It is the little things like that.  And don't get me started about Rangers, they have problems too.

So to sum it all up, professionals carry the necessities and even high speed operator types can be complete and utter douchebags.

10 March 2011

Women in Combat Units

According to this Military.com article a Pentagon panel wants to put women into combat arms positions.  When I read that the panel was headed by an Air Force general a little voice in the back of my mind said, "Well THERE'S your problem!" and dismissed the findings as another jab of inter service rivalry.

Evidently the Air Force figures that keeping women out of Combat Arms denies them promotions. Exactly what is the ratio between male and female Air Force Generals again?  According to this article women aren't so well represented among the General Officers of the Air Force, comprising only 8% of the GOs for the Air Force.

The numbers say that 80% of Army Generals come from the Combat Arms even though they make up only 7.7% of the branches.  For anyone keeping score, the Air Force likes to lie with statistics.  A few years back the Air Force came out with a really nice power point presentation showing the number of "Combat Tours" by service members and it showed that the Air Force had put in more "Combat Tours" than the Army and Marine Corps combined!  Which is really impressive until you know that an Air Force combat tour is a measly three months.  When the numbers were recalculated to man/months deployed, the Air Force was nowhere near as overworked as they claimed.

So, while the Combat Arms, make only 7.7% of the branches (only true if you count the special branches), they make up the largest portion of the Army in terms of shear numbers of soldiers.  And since women make up only 15% of the force it isn't surprising that they are represented in fewer overall numbers than men.  However, since it was only in 1970 that the Army pinned a star on a woman the number of women represented overall at all ranks has improved amazingly.

- Before the 1994 Department of Defense assignment rule, 67 percent of the positions in the Army were open to women. At present, 70 percent of the positions in the Army are open to women, and women serve in 91 percent of all Army occupations. - An increasing proportion of senior-level active duty and DoD positions is being filled by women. The percentage of female Army officers who are active duty and in grades O-4 and above increased from 11.5 percent in 1995 to 13.3 percent in 2009.

So I don't believe that a panel headed by an Air Force general with an axe to grind can make an argument that women are being held back promotion wise because of a lack of promotion opportunities. 

09 March 2011

Diminishing Options

John Venlet wrote here that he hoped I was right about always having other options.  I hate to tell him that I am only half right, which could very well end up being the same as all wrong.  The direct opposite of YAHOO is exemplified in game theory when the rules force one player into a course of action.

Think chess.  Both players see the whole board, every piece, but at the beginning of the game it is anyone's guess if black or white will win.  As the game progresses one player is able to impose his will on the other player and ultimately force the other player into a losing coarse of action.

If the field of conflict is defined and bounded then it is possible to begin limiting choices down to a true dichotomy, ie win or lose.  If the field is not clearly defined or bounded then the only limit is creativity.

In a current political example, the Opposition wants to create a totalitarian socialist state.  If we assume that their efforts are creating this course of events then we have clearly defined goal, motive, and endstate.  This means that we are agreeing to play on their field of politics and compromise to a Sweden/Switzerland type socialist state as an alternative.

However, if the Opposition is not willing to be bound by the rules of the game (rule of law, Constitutionality) then the field of contest cannot be clearly defined and the options either move towards infinity or towards one. 

The "Threeper" solution is outside the accepted rules of political process.  However the current Opposition has a proven history of ignoring the rule of law and Constitutionality.  So right now we are either hurtling towards an infinite number of options (social collapse, socialism, economic recovery, restored Republic, etc) or our options are being funneled choice by choice into one single outcome of armed conflict.  So far the Opposition has avoided naked violence, but behind every Union put ahead of guaranteed investors is the THREAT of violence. 

So I do not have unwavering hope in American Ingenuity to produce options other than Civil War should the Opposition continue a series of actions that attempt to limit the choices of the Freedom Forces into final submission.  Knowing your options is all about knowing the rules. 

08 March 2011

Other Options

I had a brief email exchange with Brandon and the question, "when do we fight?" came up when dealing with the "boiling the frog" infringements upon the rights of citizens by the government.

The answer is "I don't know" and I wish I did.  But the continual encroachment of Government may not turn into another revolution.  I truly believe You Always Have Other Options (Y.A.H.O.O.) and as such a future choice between living in Orwell's dystopia or a restored mythical Libertarian Republic is a false dichotomy.

The socialist slide of the US does not have to end up turning into the UK or Red China.  I have no doubts that is what the oppositions really wants, total government control from cradle to grave and the ability to crush dissent through rationing of goods and services before having to resort to naked force.  But I think that the opposition is willing to settle for a "second best" option.  The prags have teeth that the opposition respects because the threepers have the image of a barely checked seething mob ready for a showdown.  But without the prags the fighting would already be on.

Many Scandinavian countries are every bit as socialist as the UK without having the ineffective nanny cams and oppressive Orwellian big brother to go with it.  Switzerland is also highly socialized.  But what do both Scandinavia and Switzerland have in common?  Citizens who own guns and a relatively free market. 

Do I want the US to follow either model of EuroSocialism?  No.  I would much rather have the government out of the business of redistributing poverty.  But I think that the opposition is willing to settle on turning the US into one big Sweden instead of forcing the hand of citizens into open insurrection.

So the tampering with of the (relatively) free market worries me more than the gun issue.  If the market turns into a command economy the Yugoslavia option looks more likely than the Sweden option.  Civil war is a dirty, nasty thing.  Not like the nice clean wars we are used to where the Air Force bombs then the Army and Marines move in to occupy, and we lose less than a thousand servicemen a year.  I know that there are those who will fight if a naked power grab for guns happens, and there are many in the Army who are experts at finding AK's in Iraq who will not be able to find a single firearm in a three block radius when ordered to confiscate guns from Smalltown, USA.

I guess I should explain Yugoslavia briefly.  A brutal dictator united people of differing religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds under a cult of personality.  Then he died and the ethnic cleansing began.  Imagine the people of Iowa refusing by force of arms to give up freely their property to the citizens of Chicago, and the people of Chicago trying to take that corn by force.  A fragmented nation caused by the breakdown of a common social identity leading to civil war.  Could it happen in the US?  I hope not, but if the economy stalled someone in .gov might be stupid enough to say "just take the food, the farmers should be grateful someone even wants it." and then life would suck for everybody.  Thankfully our current cult of personality leader is even more polarizing than W was.

If the powers that be continue to screw with the economy it may lead to the collapse that requires the confiscation of guns for "security reasons."  If that happens it is better to die on your feet than die on your knees.  I wish I could accurately predict the future, but if I COULD tell people when to fight it would already time to be fighting.

07 March 2011

Tanks

Spent some time in a virtual world fighting Soviet T64's with a Stryker Battalion.

God favors the side with the most tanks.  At least in a straight up urban fight between conventional forces.

06 March 2011

Sleeping with another man.

According to this article it is "unprofessional behavior" for two men to sleep in the same bunk in the barracks.

But when BUD/S candidates piss on each other so that their buddy can feel something warm on his skin that is ok?  Or how about when we all had to line up at MEPS and do the duck walk in our underwear?

The "gayest" experience I ever had in the Army was Ranger school.  Where else would well groomed gentlemen go to the woods to spend time with other well groomed gentlemen?  Seriously I've been huddled around a sand table when another Ranger was dropping a deuce not fifteen feet away because the damn Medic couldn't dig a slit trench in the dark.

And seriously, it's the damn Navy.  Why else would the Village People make a song about it if it wasn't a little gay to begin with?  And as a Soldier I will tell you that when it gets cold you will snuggle with another man and like it.  I cuddled with another man for hours one night at Camp McCall as we both were stuck under the cloudless November sky in uniforms soaked black with beaver pond water.

Remember kids, it isn't gay if it happens in the field between consenting adults who don't make eye contact.  But the moment the "Vampire Diaries" bores you to sleep on another mans rack it is gay gay gay.  But then again, vampires are a more than a little gay.

My apologies to any actual homosexuals who might be offended, as this little post was meant to be tongue in cheek, but not in a gay way...

Hat tip to Sondra 

Officer/NCO roles and relationships

In a relatively recent issue of the "Army Times" there were quite a few senior NCOs who complained about the "pay gap" between Officers and Enlisted personnel.  Having worn stripes and bars, I speak from my own personal experience.  I got much more job satisfaction from being an enlisted soldier even though I got less pay.  However when I look at the level of responsibility and accountability I think that a Sergeant Major with 28 years making about the same as a Captain with 18 years is about right.

As an officer I get much more pay, but I my job satisfaction is much less.  Which does the Army need more?  NCOs or Officers?  I suspect a lot of NCOs simply do not understand what Officers do for a unit and either undervalue the work of officers or overvalue their own work. In some cases enlisted men do work very hard, but it has been my experience that they have had to work so hard because there was no officer to fill the staff job because of shortages in officer personnel.

The answer is that you cannot have an effective Army without NCO and Officers.  Over the history of our military we have changed the relationship between Officer and Enlisted a number of times.  Did you know that the positions of "Platoon Leader" and "Platoon Sergeant" were created at the same time in WWI?  Up until then the Company was the lowest level of tactical unit.

Today the Squad and even Team is functioning with quite a bit of tactical autonomy.  Does that mean that Staff Sergeants and Sergeants should be paid more?  No.  It means that the training required to be a Staff Sergeant and Sergeant needs to be more extensive.  Unfortunately with a high OPTEMPO the Army has relaxed schooling standards to allow promotions to those who haven't had the opportunity to attend.

When I earned my stripes I had to graduate PLDC (which is now called Warrior Leaders Course) before I could be promoted.  Now there is no schooling required to be promoted to Sergeant and WLC is the only requirement for Staff Sergeant.

Imagine, a single one month school beyond Basic Training and AIT to lead a squad independently?  In Vietnam promotions were very rapid, but the Army paid the price.  After Vietnam NCO's who "grew up in the Jungle" were great at leading patrols, but couldn't train PVT Snuffy how to shoot or run a range or do any of the other non combat functions that NCOs are expected to do.  It took some time to get the NCO corp back on track to being the Backbone of the Army.  When the Officers took over training the "zero defect exercise" mentality took root and made life painful.

The real problem that I see with the separation of the Officer and Enlisted ranks is the firm separation.  Instead of a natural progression from Staff Sergeant or Platoon Sergeant to Lieutenant there is only OCS or ROTC.  When the Army is hurting for Officers OCS starts cranking out Lieutenants left and right (I know, I was there and got the commission).  During peace time OCS cranks back to a trickle, a token few hundred each year spread across all branches, creating a difficult gap between E and O.

So talented Sergeants and Staff Sergeants get out, because while a Captain is two people up the Chain of Command from a Squad Leader, three promotions will take that Staff Sergeant to a Sergeant Major, which is a position that has very little to do with the work of leading men.  The bulk of the "Senior NCO Corps" exists solely as a counterpart to a commissioned Officer.  Yes we let Platoon Sergeants double hat as Platoon Leaders when there is a shortage of LT's, but we do NOT let 1SG's double hat as Company Commanders.  The 1SG is one of the "Top Three" of the company along with the Commander and Executive Officer, but he has no command authority.

Still to this day the Officer Corps retains some of the trappings of the aristocratic background.  However since WWII the Officer Corps has gotten a bit more "Blue Collar."  A large amount of this is the massive amount of enlisted soldiers who take advantage of wartime OCS to turn their college education into a commission.

On the flip side, each year group of officers experiences the "Captain's Exodus" between years three and six as young Captains do the cost/benefit analysis and decide that civilian life allows you to see your family more often and gives you more freedom to control your own career.  This is one of the reasons that some NCOs have to cover down on vacant officer staff positions.

Several other officers and I have discussed the creation of an Infantry Warrant Officer position to help ease the transition between E-6~E-8 and the O ranks and fill in some of the inevitable gaps in the O corps.  It would also give SSG's more promotion opportunities to help retain talent.

05 March 2011

Bugging Out

Bugging out is a helluva topic.  The whole concept is to leave your troubles behind and wait for the worst to pass.  The reality is that you can't carry enough with you to last without an 18 wheeler.  You either have to stay in place or go to somewhere that you have positioned enough supplies to last.  Bugging out to a place you have never been before is suicide. 

So what are your options?  Well if civilization falls the only thing to do is rebuild from the bottom up. 

What is the roadmap for building civilization?  Security.  In any God forsaken corner of this earth security is the number one priority.  No matter how little you have there will be someone with less who will use violence to take what you have.  Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, the faces change but the story stays the same.

After security is nourishment.  Food and water.  If America falls no one will be dropping food packets out the back of C-17s in the middle of the night.  Your municipal water supply will probably go tits up eventually as well. 

Next is trade.  Nothing makes civilization happen like the free market.  Farms won't disappear, orchards won't die (except to protect the invasive Delta smelt).  So that means transportation will be a must.  People laugh at steam power enthusiasts now, but steam powered trains are a survivalists dream.  Steam can be generated by burning pretty much anything and they can take advantage of the existing rail system.  Too bad there aren't enough of them.

Rivers have been trade routes since time began, and transport barges are simple enough to build. Too bad there aren't enough steamships to get them up river.  But even a small outboard motor can pull a few tons of cargo a long way.

I don't think that the US will ever turn into Mogadishu, but possibly Serajevo.  Even London and several German cities maintained order throughout WWII.  The economic collapse of the USSR was not followed by roving gangs of colander wearing barbarians.  In Argentina and Chile things got bad but never TEOTWAWKI.

So have a plan.  Stock supplies where you are or where you want to end up.  Realize you may not be able to get where you want to end up.  Civilization is a communal effort that the vast majority of people will work towards without much prodding.  Our world has never seen a large city completely cut off for an extended period of time in the modern era.  Back in history huge sieges during war would last for months or years, but even then the inhabitants usually found some way to survive. 

Then again, if the system came totally crashing down and everything stopped most of us would be dead within six months.  However, if it is only a financial crash things will look like the Great Depression.  If it is an EMP attack things will look a bit different.  If it is a plague then think Spanish Flu of 1918.  Disasters, even man made ones, are generally survivable.

Air denial techniques

Every war since Vietnam the US has enjoyed air superiority and the enemy has developed tactics to counter. 

In Vietnam the massive amount of logistic support allowed the VC and NVA to use a lot of anti-aircraft machine guns.

In Afghanistan mujahadeen fighters would pack 51 caliber machine guns up mountain tops to shoot DOWN at Soviet HIND gunships.

In Desert Storm an AC-130 "Spectre" was shot down by an Iraqi Strela-2 manpad missile.

In Serbia CPT Scott O'Grady was shot down by an SA-6 missile that used a civilian air control radar for initial guidance. 

In Chechnya terrorists would tape shrapnel to RPG-7 warheads and set the fuse for time.  The warheads would go into the air and create a shotgun blast of shrapnel.

In Mogadishu plain RPG-7 warheads were shot into the air, and enough hit to cause "Blackhawk Down" to become history and a movie.

In OIF insurgents would identify Air Mobility Corridors and set up a triangular ambush with machine guns.  With fire from three sides it would overwhelm the pilots ability to react and evade.

Now here is the kicker, every successful air defense used by the underdogs requires some sort of advantage in outside support (Vietnam, Serbia) or massive amounts of munitions (Chechnya, Mogadishu), or good intelligence (Afghanistan, OIF).  And in only one case was a "high flyer" taken out (Serbia).

So if you want to take out the high flyers you had better do it on the ground.  This is difficult because air bases are usually far from where the fighting is and are generally well protected.  Al Quaeda in Iraq (AQI) was able to mass several hundred fighters to attempt "liberating" Abu Ghraib for propaganda reasons, but totally missed out on trying to create a point of penetration on an air base.  Of course the failure of the VC/NVA to capture any air bases during the Tet offensive might have led them to believe that it was futile, although communist sappers did destroy several aircraft on the ground during the war.

OPFOR tactics...

At the Combat Training Centers (CTC) there are dedicated OPosition Forces (OPFOR).  Whether you go to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk or Joint Multinational Readiness Center at Hohenfels Germany you will get a dedicated OPFOR that knows your tactics inside and out.

So the OPFOR have come up with some interesting tactics to counter the BLUFOR tactics.

Send probing missions all night long to keep a unit at 100% readiness instead of on a rest cycle.
Shoot the driver first to immobilize a unit then take the gunner and passengers in order.  Vehicle mobility kills can force the BLUFOR to commit vehicle recovery assets which can then be targeted.
Use CS gas and Smoke like it is running out of style, making the BLUFOR react to a chemical attack will buy you time to egress.

Things to think about, people make the worst decisions of their life when they are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  If you can force your opponent into one or two of those states it is only to your advantage.  You can make a unit combat ineffective by simply cutting off their water resupply for a few days.  Maximum payoff for minimum risk.

03 March 2011

Cars..

Tam wrote about the success of crossover SUVs.  From my particular standpoint a vehicle is a vehicle.  If someone wants to deck out a 4x4 and never get off the blacktop that is fine by me.  I finally got a 4x4 and the times I've had to use 4 wheel drive have been few and far between.

Ever think about the military uses of various civilian vehicles?  A fire team size element could live out of a crossover SUV for a week easily.  A 4x4 truck can support a platoon for a week easy. I don't really buy the concept of a "bug out vehicle", but that is a post for a different time.

On the flip side there are vehicles that are made only for the road.  I have a truck that is 2 wheel drive, and while I have used it to haul a lot of stuff and tow trailers it lacks the off road capabilities of a 4x4.  Still, in the grand scheme of things a truck that can carry 1,500 pounds of supplies to a location is a very good asset to have when you need logistic support.

My motorcycle is not useful for off road trips, but a dirtbike that sips gas is a great way for scouts to move around.  Especially if they are supported by a truck or suv. 

One thing to note, is that civilian vehicles are not fighting vehicles.  Sure you can make like an insurgent and mount a machine gun or launch homemade rockets from them, but they are not very survivable.  Best to use them to increase mobility and provide logistics support.

Patton has been quoted as saying that amateurs talk tactics and professionals talk logistics.  There is definitely some truth to that.

Guns

On the drive home I wondered if the ATF could legally regulate direct energy weapons like lasers.

After all, a firearm is clearly defined in legalese as a weapon that propels a projectile by means of an explosion.

Or would the tool fearing idiots at another letter to the alphabet soup agency?  BATFEL?  And when hand held sonic stun tools become a reality will it become BATFELS?  How about projectiles thrown by means of centripetal force?  BATFELSC?

Or will the idiots suddenly realize that all objects are just "found weapons" waiting to be used?

02 March 2011

pushups, situps, run

Well the Army is finally getting away from the old APFT.

What started out as a commanders tool to judge the physical readiness of his unit became a substitute for leadership, professionalism, and advancement potential.  When you have three easy to grade events that allow you to stratify soldiers it can do nothing but turn into the key to promotions.  The old thinking went "Well if you can run you can lead" or something like that.  Evidently leading your company on a company run where you caused people to fall out is evidence of leadership.  If you don't follow, don't worry, I've been in the Army for a while and I still don't get it.

Until you go to combat and the overweight kid with bad knees pulls the PT stud from a burning tank.  When your high speed staff sergeant falls apart and fails to do his job during a medevac. Ever see a medal for heroism stopped cold because the kid couldn't pass the PT test?  It isn't something you want to experience.

We learned the hard way that people get promoted into ranks during peacetime without being able to fulfill the duties of that rank in wartime.  Believe me my biggest fear isn't getting killed, it is screwing up my job so that my boys get killed.

So I am "cautiously optimistic" that the new PT test will not get bastardized into a promotion tool.  Combat is a "pass/fail" event, and the PT test should reflect that.